Blog a Book: Chapter One

Elora Quibble and the Mysterious Mansion

The package arrived on a Friday: an ordinary Friday, mind you, at an ordinary house on an ordinary street in an ordinary town. It was a pretty package — all nice and square (not torn and ripped as packages often get in the mail) and it had swirly handwriting on it written, I suppose, by a very accomplished person.

TO: Ms. Elora Quibble
38 Post Oak Rd.
Propingham, MS

Now, I would tell you the “FROM” part, but there was no “FROM” part on it. “Odd,” Elora thought, “How could someone with such beautiful handwriting not include the ‘FROM’ part?” She flipped it over. “OPEN IMMEDIATELY” it stated in bold scrawling letters, not at all like the flowery swirls of the address. “Well,” Elora thought. “I shall not be bossed around by a package telling me what to do. I will NOT open it immediately.” Elora could be quite stubborn at times as I’m sure you’ll come to see. “I’ll put you in the kitchen and when I decide to open you, I will.” So, Elora trotted inside and placed the package on the counter.

Her mother, Mrs. Beatrice Quibble, looked at the package and then glanced at her daughter quizzically. “Well, why don’t you open it?” she said.

“Oh, I will eventually, Mother,” she said. Elora’s calling Mrs. Quibble “Mother” was a recent development. She thought it sounded quite grown up and, as she looked young for her age, sounding more grown up was always an advantage. “I’ll be outside, Mother, playing with the kittens” she said and then walked out the door.

Elora had scads and scads of kittens in a shed in the back yard. They were all different sizes and colors and loved to leap and play and get all tangled up with one another. She rescued the kittens from the feral cats that periodically took up residence under the porch of the old deserted Drindle Mansion up the road. She was quite a brave girl to go and rescue these scrawny little kittens. She wisely waited until they were old enough to leave their mothers, but young enough to be tamed and given to responsible owners who would snuggle with them in front of a roaring fireplace on cold winter nights. Their parents were often quite wild and impossible for her to catch, try as she might.

Catching even the kittens, though, was quite a feat. Not only did Elora have to crawl under a dilapidated old porch, avoiding cobwebs and worms and rusty nails and sneaky little mice that scurried around, she had to find where the little creatures were hiding. They were quite skittish and small and tough to find in all the cracks and crannies under the porch. She always took a flashlight with her because even though the sun shone through some very large cracks in the porch, the easiest way to find the little things was to shine the light and hope it glinted off their eyes. It was quite spooky, but effective. One must have a thick pair of gloves, too, for as soon as you cornered them, they would raise up on their tippy toes, spit like camels, and swipe at you with their little razor sharp paws.

But after a few weeks with full bellies and kind caresses, the kittens became quite playful and attached to Elora. In fact, she often hated to give them away. “They’ll eat us out of house and home!” her father always said. And so, she would hop on her bike to tell the local veterinarian and animal shelter that she had kittens ready to go, should anyone come by wanting any.

“Hi! Elora!” called a girl from the fence as Elora walked toward the shed. “More kittens up at the Drindle place for us to catch in a few weeks! Momma cat just moved a litter there.”

Elora waved. “Thanks, Sky!” she called back, “Meet me there in 20?”

“Will do!” called Sky.

Sky lived up the street from Elora and frequently roamed the neighborhood looking for adventure. She and Elora often found it in the woods just beyond the Drindle place. Whether it was part of the Drindle land or not, they didn’t know. All they knew was that it provided hours of play in creeks and climbing trees during the summer.

The Drindle mansion was quite a peculiar place. It was four stories high with towers on four corners and a steep roof in the middle. It was quite large and looked like a castle from Medieval England with a few improvements. For example, where a castle would have few windows, this had many windows and French doors and little balconies scattered here and there. The second story of one of the towers was made completely of windows. Elora thought it must have been a green house because her mother told her it had had lovely plants hanging in the windows at one time. But Elora didn’t know that for sure.

The porch, however, was the most peculiar part of the place and certainly not at all like a usual part of a castle. It wrapped around the front and sides of the mansion, but it looked as if it had been an afterthought. There was only one door from the house that led onto it — the front door. The porch also had huge painted cinder blocks lined around it to keep anything from crawling under. One of the cinder blocks had been moved a long time ago, though, with just enough room for Elora to crawl through after kittens.

No one (that Elora knew of) had been in the mansion since Mr. and Mrs. Drindle had abandoned it years ago. The Drindles weren’t from Propingham and everyone considered them a mysterious and yet grandparental old couple. They were from Britain, but had moved to Propingham after the war. They were rumored to be enormously wealthy because how else could they afford to purchase the land for such a house? There was one caretaker who visited every week to keep the grass from overwhelming the house and grounds, but that was the extent of care since the Drindles had left — hence the dilapidated porch full of feral cats. Neighborhood children had reported seeing dim lights in the windows and cars slowly drive away, but when any adults arrived to check it out, the house and land were as still and quiet as a graveyard. “Overactive imaginations” Elora remembered her mother saying after one such incident. And yet, no one had ever tried to contact the Drindles after they left. Why should they? They arrived mysteriously and they left mysteriously. As long as the grounds were kept from growing over, the community was happy to leave things well enough alone.

“Well,” Elora said to herself finally after thoroughly exhausting her current litters of kittens and returning them to the shed, “I guess I should go see the new litter.” So she skipped into the kitchen where her mother was making supper and grabbed a flashlight from the drawer. “Mother,” Elora said, “I’m meeting Sky over at the Drindle place to look at a new kitten litter. Be back in a bit!”

“Careful under that old porch,” Mrs. Quibble said, “Watch out for spiders! Oh, and don’t be late for supper. It’ll be ready soon.”

From this brief exchange you, dear reader, might get the impression that Mrs. Quibble was a very fearful woman. And I suppose, in a sense, she was. She often worried about Elora and what might happen to her. But she herself was quite a brave woman: a former pilot and explorer who had been in her fair share of scrapes and dangerous situations.

“And, Elora,” Mrs. Quibble said, “what about the package?”

“Oh, yes, that. I’ll look at it when I get back,” Elora replied.

And so with flashlight in hand, Elora ran into the garage, hopped on her bike, and set off for the mysterious old Drindle place to meet her friend and search for kittens.

To be continued . . . .

Copyright © 2020 Allison Shaw: All rights reserved, including right of reproduction, in whole or part, in any form.